A few nights ago, I was watching an old episode of the TV show “House” when the patient suddenly started having “rapid heart rate.” The doctors, who were gathered around his bed, immediately started trying to bring down his heart rate by using some drug which they mentioned, but I didn’t catch the name of it. Then I heard one of the doctors say that “rapid heart rate” was an indication of failing kidneys.
In case some readers of this blog are not familiar with the TV show “House,” it is a great show that is quite educational; I watch the re-runs every night. Each episode starts with a person who is brought to the hospital with some minor health problem, and it is all downhill from there, until Dr. House comes up with a brilliant diagnosis, which the audience would never have guessed in a million years. Before the mystery is solved, the patient always takes a turn for the worse and experiences one new symptom after another. The plot frequently involves failing kidneys.
A few months after having a stroke, I experienced “rapid heart rate” myself. (The medical term for it is “tachycardia.”) I was very alarmed by this new development, but I hesitated to call 911 because that would mean another $24,000 trip to the hospital and possible open heart surgery. Instead, I called my son who helped me to calm down. The next day, I headed straight to the office of my Chinese doctor.
My Chinese doctor told me that heart rate is controlled by the kidneys. On previous visits, he had told me that blood pressure is controlled by the kidneys and that my stroke had been caused by high blood pressure. He gave me some herb pills for the kidneys but after a couple of months, I had stopped taking them because I thought that I was fully recovered. Big mistake! I should have consulted the doctor before discontinuing the herb pills.
Strangely, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate do not necessarily occur at the same time. When I went to the hospital as a stroke patient, my blood pressure was 205/100 but my heart rate was normal. At the hospital, there was no Dr. House to tell the other doctors to check my kidneys. My whole family was gathered around my bedside and all of them are very healthy, so I would have had no problem getting a kidney, but I digress.
Three weeks before I suffered the stroke, I was experiencing “dry mouth.” I would wake up in the middle of the night with no saliva at all in my mouth. I would drink water but that didn’t help much. I wish I had consulted my Chinese doctor immediately. Instead, I waited for three weeks before making an appointment. In fact, my appointment was on the morning that I ended up in the hospital; I had to call and cancel the appointment from my hospital bed.
Another thing that I was experiencing three weeks before the stroke was what Western doctors call malaise. I had no energy at all and didn’t feel like doing anything. The night before I had a stroke, I went to bed with all my clothes on, except my shoes, and I didn’t even have the energy to get under the covers. My daughter came over to visit and when she saw that I was so out of it, she handed me some money and told me to get an appointment with my Chinese doctor right away. I told her that I already had an appointment and went back to sleep. Unfortunately, I had waited too long to get to a Chinese doctor.
When I finally did go to my Chinese doctor after getting out of the hospital, he told me that “dry mouth” is an indication of diabetes and that diabetes is caused by failing kidneys.
To determine the health of the kidneys, a Chinese doctor checks your pulse. But not the way a Western doctor checks your pulse. In Chinese medicine, the doctor uses three fingers and checks both wrists. By checking the pulse, a Chinese doctor can determine if your kidneys are functioning properly or if there is a problem that will eventually lead to a stroke or heart trouble. I’m back to taking Chinese herbs that help the kidneys and now I’m feeling fine.
I have always had a strong interest in health and medicine. At the age of 15, I was reading Grey’s Anatomy, which I had checked out from the library. When my mother discovered what I was reading, she threw the book into the kitchen stove because it had “dirty pictures.” Then she joined a Catholic book club so that she could buy proper books for me to read. One of the book club selections was a book by Dr. Gayelord Hauser called “Diet Does It.” It was this book that turned me into a “health nut,” back when this was almost as bad as being a “Holocaust Denier” is today. At 15, I wanted to be a doctor. On alternate days, I wanted to be a sports writer, but that’s another story for another day.